Joy Barbee accepts NASCAR Hall of Fame award on behalf of her uncle Joe Weatherly .
Meet @nascartireguy and learn how he landed a job in the sport he loves FOLLOW: @nascartireguy on Twitter CONCORD, N.C. -- David Groseclose carefully takes the 27-year-old photograph out of its frame for closer examination, making it easier to marvel at its full-circle nature. Back then, a 10-year-old David and his older brother, Jeff -- both wearing Scouts uniforms -- sidled up to an aspiring rookie driver named Brett Bodine to pose for a photograph at the boys' home track, Bristol Motor Speedway. When their father took that snapshot in 1988, none of the parties could have imagined that the younger Groseclose would one day report to Bodine. That day came in January 2014, when Groseclose, now 37, showed up for work at the NASCAR Research & Development Center as the sanctioning body's lead tire engineer. For Groseclose -- who appropriately tweets from the handle @nascartireguy -- the position was the realization of a childhood dream, which took root from years of attending races at the Bristol track, just 10 minutes from his hometown of Blountville, Tennessee. When Groseclose stumbled upon the job listing, the enthusiasm was palpable. "Tire engineer? What could be better?" he recalled telling his wife, Susan. "She said, 'if you don't apply for that job, I'm going to divorce you.' " It never came to that, Groseclose laughed. After an initial callback, Groseclose was on the phone with Bodine, leading to an interview with both him and Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR's senior vice president of innovation and racing development. RELATED: Go inside the NASCAR R&D Center "David was exactly what we wanted; he had a passion for the sport," Bodine said last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "As you know, to survive the work schedule and the workload of this sport, you've got to have a passion for it. You can't treat this like a 9-to-5 job. During the interview process, I realized that. That's what really made myself and Gene Stefanyshyn feel really good about hiring David." Plenty of Groseclose's passion stems from his long-running association with NASCAR as a fan, attending his first Bristol race at age 5 and -- as best as he can recall -- falling asleep by the halfway point, overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. He'll be back Wednesday, overseeing an open test for Sprint Cup teams on the .533-mile track but also taking time to savor the homecoming in the Tennessee hills. MORE: Teams get ready for Bristol test In a year and a half on the job, Groseclose's responsibilities have included scheduling and supervising all Goodyear tire tests, analyzing data and driver feedback to help fellow engineers make informed choices for selecting the right compound for a given track. Groseclose said he meets with Goodyear officials on a weekly basis, but that open communication with NASCAR's tire partner is a daily process. He is also responsible for all sections of the NASCAR Rule Book regarding wheels and tires. Groseclose's diverse background includes seven years in the U.S. Navy, studies in the field of nuclear power and time spent on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, but his current duties are a natural extension of his seven-year stint with Bridgestone, where he served as the lead development coordinator and engineer for street tires. "Actually a lot of it transfers. Even though it's a racing tire, the construction, the basics are the same," Groseclose said. "Every tire's got a bead, every tire's got body-ply, every tire's got some type of belt. Now, passenger tires are steel belts and here they're not. The tread's a lot thicker on passenger tires because they've got to last a lot longer, but you can't have that thick of a tread on a racing tire because it heats up too much. If it gets too hot, it'll start coming apart. "A lot of it's the same, but parts of it are different because of the extreme conditions that racing tires have to go through." In addition to his work experience, Groseclose continues to draw upon his upbringing as a NASCAR enthusiast in the R&D setting, with Stefanyshyn often asking him to put on his "fan hat" in discussions about improving competition. That role goes even further back; Groseclose's actual fan hat from his youth was one loaded with souvenir pins, proudly displaying his status as a card-carrying member of the Harry Gant Fan Club. Groseclose's father attended Bristol's second-ever race in its inaugural season with his father, watching Joe Weatherly edge Rex White in a battle of NASCAR Hall of Famers in the 1961 Southeastern 500. His parents remain season-ticket holders. Now Groseclose shares his love of the sport with the next generation, his three young boys -- ages 8, 5 and 3, with a fourth child on the way, due in December. The only difference is that now it's not just a pastime for Groseclose, it's part of his life's work. "I loved the job I had before. I worked with really good people and it was a great job," Groseclose said. "I had no inclination of changing jobs, but when your dream job comes up, you've got to do something, right?" FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Joe Weatherly
Inductee for 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class
Brief Yet Prolific Career Lands 'Clown Prince of Racing' In Hall
1988 champion gets inducted, says Chase's Cup news was the bigger deal Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MORE: Five inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame " Chase scores Cup ride CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bill Elliott often outran the competition, but recently the former NASCAR premier series champion has been trying to outrun his emotions. It's been quite the past few days for Elliott, the 1988 champ, and his family. On Thursday it was announced that his son, 19-year-old Chase, would make his first start in the Sprint Cup Series later this year. On Friday, the elder Elliott was one of five drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His son landing the ride with Hendrick Motorsports , where he will take over a car perhaps even more famous than that of his father was the bigger deal, Bill Elliott said. "Let me tell you this little story," Elliott offered after he, along with Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White were officially inducted into the Hall. "I called Chase – I think it was Wednesday night and I was talking to him and he said 'guess who called me?' "I said 'I don't know.'" Told it was someone named Jeff, the name didn’t register. "He said, ' Jeff Gordon called me.' He was so excited that Jeff Gordon had picked up the phone and called him," Elliott said. "… That meant so much to him (to talk about) what his next step and what his next role was going to be." Elliott made the No. 9 Ford Thunderbird one of the most recognizable cars on the track during his career. In addition to his championship, he won 44 times in premier series competition. He, along brothers Ernie and Dan, set qualifying records likely to remain unbroken as well. Gordon, scheduled to end his driving career at the end of '15, has won 92 times and four championships with Hendrick Motorsports . For fans that began following the sport in the early '90s or later, Gordon’s brightly painted No. 24 Chevrolet quickly became just as recognizable and even more successful. He's won on nearly ever track where the Sprint Cup Series competes, and several that are no longer on the schedule. And now Chase Elliott prepares to step into the ride once Gordon steps aside. MORE: Gordon calls Chase the 'total package' As much as the sport has changed since Bill Elliott arrived on the scene in the latter part of the '70s, one thing has remained constant – the cycle of drivers that show up, make their mark and eventually depart. Gordon is making plans to exit. Elliott's son Chase is preparing to arrive. Not much different than when he and his family first showed up, the elder Elliott said. "When I came in you had Cale (Yarborough), David Pearson, all those guys kind of winding down," Elliott said. "Then I watched Richard (Petty) retire and now it's turning … again." At that time such changes didn't catch his attention, he said, explaining that with a limited budget and much to learn, "all I cared about was just trying to go race. "There was so few of us, we really didn't worry about anything else," Elliott said. "It was kind of like you were driving down the road with blinders on, you were really oblivious to anything else going on." PHOTOS: Best moments from the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony His son understands what lies ahead, Elliott said on a night he was honored for what took place in the past. "He's an incredibly good race car driver, and I'm not saying it's because he's my kid," Elliott said. "… I've said all along he's better than I ever thought about being." Maybe so, but the father was no slouch. Among his 44 victories are four that came in the in the twilight of his career before he began to scale back his racing schedule. Driving for Ray Evernham, who had helped guide Gordon to three of his four titles, Elliott won at Homestead, Pocono, Indianapolis and Rockingham. "There aren't many names that transcend a sport," Evernham said. "If you're not even a baseball fan you know the names Ruth or Mantle; even the most casual football fan knows Lombardi and Unitas. "In our sport, in motorsports, they know Foyt and Andretti and Earnhardt and Petty and even casual fans know Bill Elliott because of the things he's done. "It's an honor to have him as a friend, and it's been a great ride."
Daughter Brittany reveals a special helmet for Iowa race RELATED: Grand marshal added to Wallace's Iowa duties " Racing with nephew Matt NEWTON, Iowa -- Until Friday, Kenny Wallace 's plans to hang up his NASCAR driving helmet this weekend at Iowa Speedway were only missing one small detail -- the helmet itself. His former team kept deflecting his phone calls, telling him not to worry and that his helmet would be there for the 905th start of his long, storied NASCAR career. The smokescreen was effective -- it bought his daughter Brittany enough time to have it professionally painted with a commemorative collage of snapshots and memories from his 26 years in the sport. While Wallace's time behind the wheel in NASCAR will end with Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the sport won't be saying goodbye to one of its most charismatic characters, who will remain a presence both in TV broadcasting and at local dirt tracks. Though there will be some finality after he steps away Saturday night, Wallace said he'll do his best to keep his emotions in check along the way. "I think there's going to be moments and I hope that it happens after the race, but I've done a pretty good job at my career to really focus in on what I have to do," said Wallace, who will carry backing from the race's title sponsor on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. "I remember when Ernie Irvan got hurt (in 1994) and I was in that Texaco/Havoline car in the Cup Series, I was shifting the gears getting on the high banks there at Bristol and I could hear the roar of the crowd, and I was like, 'No. Focus.' "I've learned a lot along the way. I've watched Jeff Gordon this year; I don't even know how he can go. I've learned a lot. I'm ready to race, and then we'll deal with everything after the race and when I get out of the car." That theory held true for about 30 minutes after his arrival at the .875-mile track, when Brittany Wallace handed over the special surprise to her father in front of a group of friends and family. Short of choking up, the 51-year-old Wallace said he had sworn he would not be emotional, but was genuinely moved by the gift. Wallace joked that he hopes to amend the helmet's graphics Saturday night, changing his nine career XFINITY wins to an even 10. But the joke belied his ever-sharper focus with top-shelf JGR equipment underneath him for this weekend's swan song. "If he's saying he's blocking it out, he's way better at doing something like that than I am," said older brother Mike Wallace , like his sibling a nine-time winner in NASCAR national competition. "He said he's happy with it, content. All I can say is more power to him. It's outstanding. I just ran into him over there and he's got his family and friends, he's the grand marshal for a (K&N Series) race tonight, he's got a suite here. He seems to be having fun right now. He said, 'I've got to go sign some hats,' and I was like, 'Go be famous. That's what you're good at.'" The nature of the family-affair weekend has even more ties. Kenny Wallace will share the track with his nephew, Matt, who is scheduled to make his second career XFINITY Series start Saturday night. His farewell race will also take place on a short track designed by oldest brother Rusty Wallace, a NASCAR Hall of Famer. The eldest Wallace ended his driving career in 2005, but like his brother, he remained active in the sport with broadcasting stints in television and radio. It's why both Wallaces have shied away from calling the occasion "retirement" with a capital R. "I wish him all the luck in the world," said Rusty Wallace, speaking Thursday at a charity event in Pennsylvania for The NASCAR Foundation and the Jeff Gordon 's Children's Foundation. "I told him the other day, do not use that word retirement. You don't need to do that. They'll label you with that. I said notice Jeff Gordon said he's quitting, but he's not retiring, but he's never going to race again. So he's kind of retiring but he's not going to use that word. He learned that from me and Mark Martin . I told Kenny, you didn't need to do that. He'll be fine." So if anyone was hoping to get rid of Kenny Wallace after this weekend, tough luck. The driver known for his boundless energy, his grace with racing fans, his social media presence, his extracurricular dirt-racing travels and his broadcasting moxie isn't going anywhere. After 900-plus starts dating back to a 1988 debut at Martinsville Speedway, driving the No. 8 ride owned by Dale Earnhardt in what is now the XFINITY Series, Wallace said simply that "there needs to be a line in the sand" for his driving career. Staying power in NASCAR can often be fleeting and rare, a fact that has made Wallace even prouder of his long run in the sport's highest levels. Wallace's helmet is anchored by the words "Life is a journey," a well-worn adage he said he always tells his three daughters. Wallace's own journey will enter its next phase after Saturday night. "My mom, Judy, she said to me, 'Kenny, hon. You keep reinventing yourself,' " Wallace said. "I'm like 'really, Mom?' It's not a plan, it's just that I want to stay in the sport. I think longevity and persistence is what I'm so proud of, because let's face it, I was never an 'A' driver. To me, I feel proud saying I was a 'B-plus' driver. I won nine XFINITY races, 177 top-10s -- I mean, that counts for something. When I should've been down and out, I stayed digging." Contributing: RJ Kraft from Pocono Raceway FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase-clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart, 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase, but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase. Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase, and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart, given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 18 driver has won three straight races with three different rules packages RELATED: How 'Rowdy' can make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup LONG POND, Pa. -- The 2015 season has been one of change for Kyle Busch , missing the first 11 races of the season with a broken leg and a broken foot and then coming back with a new crew chief, Adam Stevens, for his No. 18 ride. On Friday, the winner of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races said embracing change has been key to his success. As the Joe Gibbs Racing driver attempts to become the first driver to win four consecutive races since 2007 when Jimmie Johnson did it on the way to his second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Busch hopes this strong streak will carry over into the fall to follow in Johnson's footsteps. "I look forward to continuing on our Chase march here and then once we get to Chicago, being able to capitalize on this hot summer to have a continuation of that into the Chase," Busch said. The driver has not only won three races in a row, but has done so with three different rules packages. His first win in the string came with the low downforce package at Kentucky Speedway, followed by a victory under 2015 rules at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next week came with NASCAR's high drag package. "With the different aero packages, I actually was pretty excited about it," Busch said. "I kind of like change, and I feel like I'm the best at being able to adapt to it the fastest before crew chiefs and engineers get too much of an understanding of the basis of what they have to work on to make those packages better in order to get their drivers better, their cars better and to be able to keep up with me. I kind of like the change." Busch likes change so much that he suggested running last weekend's rules at Pocono Raceway, a track where he's winless in NASCAR's premier series. "I actually wouldn't mind if we had that high drag package here at Pocono," Busch said. "I think here would definitely be a place that you'd want to see it with these long straightaways. That would certainly make for a really interesting race." Pocono is one of only five tracks where he hasn't won a race. The other four -- Martinsville Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway -- are in the Chase, and the last three are 1.5-mile tracks, which make up half of the races in NASCAR's playoffs. When the Chase starts, Busch will have run only one points race with the 2015 package on a 1.5-mile track, Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . He earned an 11th-place result behind JGR teammate and winner Carl Edwards . Busch acknowledged his lack of track time with the current package, and the driver may need to learn behind the wheel during the final 10 races of the season. "The lower downforce at Kentucky was fun," Busch said. "It's definitely a lot harder than what a lot of the other mile-and-a-halfs have been this year. I haven't run in a whole lot of them. But just from the drivers' sense of what I got, the off-throttle time was a heck of a lot more. Everybody enjoyed it a lot so I hope to continue on down that path." Although Busch's first win of 2015 came on a road course last month at Sonoma Raceway, Busch said next week's return to road racing may present the biggest obstacle over the final six races of the regular season as he needs to make and then stay in the top 30 in points to secure a playoff berth. "With Watkins Glen coming up next week, that's going to be another hard one to get through so that's going to be a tough challenge for myself in the left foot. So we'll make it, and I think we'll be OK like Sonoma," Busch said. "It'll be sore on Monday afterwards, and we'll continue to ice it and make it feel better." Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) will be the first time this season Busch will run a second race at the same track. He finished ninth in June, and hopes to replace the zero in his victory column with a win based on JGR adjustments over the last six weeks. "I've never won at Pocono Raceway, and I hope that's about to change," Busch said, using the "c" word again. "We've certainly had some good runs over the years, sometimes in the spring race, sometimes in the summer race, but overall, I feel like our team's really come a long way. I like where we're going and where we're at so I just hope that we can continue that here this weekend and get ourselves a win and make it four in a row." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See where drivers will pit for the Windows 10 400 RELATED: Complete lineup at Pocono " See all 43 cars in Sunday's race Pole-sitter Kyle Busch nabbed the pick of pit stalls at Pocono with a fast lap of 178.416 mph in Friday's qualifying. He will service the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the first pit stall, entering Turn 1 of the Tricky Triangle. Sharing the front row at the start for the Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET Friday, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) with Busch is Kevin Harvick , and the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet will pit in the second stall, right behind Busch. Joey Logano qualified third and chose pit stall No. 3 for the No. 22 Ford. Richard Childress Racing 's No. 3 driver Austin Dillon will pit in the first pit stall coming onto pit road out of Turn 3. Kurt Busch has an opening in front of the No. 41, which will come in for service at the front of the first set of stalls coming out of Turn 3. Fifth-place qualifier Tony Stewart grabbed the spot in front of Kurt Busch , with a clear rear entry at the back of the second group of pit stalls at Pocono. Starting No. 9 Sunday is the No. 2 driver, Brad Keselowski , who will pit his Team Penske Ford also with a rear opening, choosing the final pit stall in the first block of pits heading into Turn 1. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule